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Getting to know ... a local blacksmith and metalsmith PDF Print E-mail
Friday, November 22, 2013 9:16 PM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — After more than 35 years as an artist, Michael Bendele still feels like a beginner.

Bendele is an artist who works with forged metal. He heats bars of metal and while it’s hot, he shapes it to create art.

“Metal is a challenging material to work with and I’m always learning something new,” he said.

His art does not consist of sculptures just to be admired but they serve a purpose and have meaning.

“It’s solving problems in a creative way and it’s providing something that you can’t get anywhere else,” Bendele said.

He makes railings, tables, candles, bowls and more for individuals and he also creates pieces for churches and organizations.

One of his most recent pieces was revealed last week at the new Wassenberg Art Center facility at the location of the former Van Wert Armory. He created a archway to be located in front of the building.

“The Armory was going to be demolished and this provides an outside symbol to show re-purposing,” Bendele said. “You know this is no longer just an armory because of the sculptures in the front and you can probably tell its related to art.”

On another level, Bendele wanted the sculptures to serve as a portal or an archway from the street.

Bendele demonstrates how he sculpts bars of steel using a power hammer.“My idea creates an interest to cause people to come in off the streets and see what’s inside,” he said.

For each piece that he creates, coming up with the idea for it is at least half of the job.

“I try to come up with an idea that solves a problem to fit a solution,” Bendele said. “The key thing is I try to do something unique for each person or organization to fit their needs. That’s what keeps it interesting, I don’t do a lot of the same.”

Usually Bendele comes up with a basic concept that is just clear enough to him to get started, rather than creating a model.

“A drawing or a model is one thing but the material is something different,” he said.

The pieces in each work of art respond to each other, he explained, and the process of creating the overall piece is ongoing. A model may serve as a basic starting point but for Bendele, it is not always necessary.

“I couldn’t always do it this way but I can now because of where I am in my career,” he said.

Bendele became intrigued with metalsmithing when he took a jewelry class in college.

“Something that intrigued me fairly immediately was the ability to manipulate something that appears solid,” he said.

He attended Bowling Green State University at the time and graduated with a degree in English education. In 1976, he started blacksmithing as a hobby and after a couple years of teaching, he left in 1978 to become a fulltime blacksmith.

Now, he combines his education background and his love for metalsmithing by teaching at national and state conferences and various craft schools as a way of giving back.

The initial intrigue, though, still exists for Bendele.

“Metal can be very expressive,” he said.”The intrigue with it to take a piece of steel that’s a cold, lifeless object and to create movement and motion. It’s really intriguing.”

That intrigue added to the challenge of working with metal makes each experience feel like he is learning, Bendele said.

“I still consider myself to be learning, otherwise it’s just a lot of hard work,” he laughed.

To see more of his work, visit



0 #1 2013-11-23 17:24
wtg mike

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